In a bombshell development, R&B superstar R. Kelly was indicted Friday on charges he sexually abused four victims, three of them underage, over a span of a dozen years.
Kelly was charged with allegedly abusing the one adult victim in February 2003 — at the same time he was already fighting child pornography charges for filming himself having sex with an underage girl.
The four separate indictments charged Kelly with a combined 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for alleged misconduct occurring between 1998 and 2010.
Three of the indictments refer to girls who were under 17 at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, identifying them by initials only.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Kelly, wearing a bright blue coat, walked a few feet through a crowd of reporters and photographers to surrender to authorities at the Central District police station at 18th and State streets. Moments later, two officers inside the station led him away in handcuffs.
Kelly will remain in custody until a bond hearing that is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Earlier in the day, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx held a brief news conference at which she declined to take questions from reporters and mentioned only what was already laid out in the indictments.
If convicted of the Class 2 felony charges, Kelly would face a sentence ranging from probation to up to seven years in prison.
This marks the second time that Kelly, 52, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, has been charged with a sex crime by Cook County prosecutors. Armed with a sex tape, prosecutors indicted the singer in 2002 on child pornography charges, but following a sensational trial six years later, a jury acquitted him of charges alleging he filmed himself having sex with his goddaughter, a girl estimated to have been as young as 13.
Friday’s charges come in the wake of reporting in Buzzfeed and The New Yorker by Chicago-based journalist Jim DeRogatis and after damning allegations in a recent Lifetime documentary series.
High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti had teased the charges for days, telling reporters he gave Foxx a videotape he unearthed that depicted Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Avenatti said the videotape — a VHS dating to about 1999 and more than 40 minutes in length — shows Kelly on two separate days engaged in sexual acts with the girl. He said the audio was clear and the video of “far superior” quality than the tape used at the 2008 trial.
Both the victim and Kelly referred to the girl’s young age more than 10 separate times on the tape, according to Avenatti.
"This was in no way role-playing during some sexual act,” said Avenatti, who first gained national attention while representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her allegations that President Donald Trump bought her silence about their alleged affair during the 2016 campaign. “It is clear that this young lady was 14 years of age."
— J.P. on more than one instance between May 2009 and January 2010.
The alleged abuse occurred years ago, but prosecutors were able to still bring charges against Kelly. Three of the indictments fall within the Illinois statute of limitations because charges were brought within 20 years of each of the alleged victims’ 18th birthdays, according to court records.
Records show the fourth charge, involving the February 2003 incident, could have been prosecuted at any time, since Kelly’s DNA was entered into a database within 10 years of the alleged incident and the victim reported the abuse within three years.
The charges come about six weeks after Foxx called on any Kelly accusers to come forward, citing the allegations in the documentary series detailing accusations of sexual misconduct against the singer.
The six-hour documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” aired on the Lifetime channel and alleged that he has manipulated young women into joining a “sex cult,” forcing them to stay with him against their will and keeping them under his control.
Timeline of R. Kelly's life, rise to stardom and controversies and legal saga surrounding sexual abuse
By Chicago Tribune
Jul 12, 2019 | 12:44 PM
In the days after Foxx’s plea for help from alleged Kelly victims, her office was inundated with tips.
While the allegations against Kelly have been long-standing, the singer had largely continued to enjoy widespread support. However, the Lifetime documentary, DeRogatis’ reporting and a #MuteRKelly nationwide protest movement have brought his career to a virtual standstill even before Friday’s indictments.